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$400M Stanford Donation Highlights B-Schools' Thirst For Social Impact Careers

Scholarship fund will develop global leaders to tackle pressing social challenges

Stanford University has received a $400 million donation from the founder of Nike, Philip Knight, to develop global leaders who can tackle society’s most pressing social challenges.

It equals the largest ever individual donation to a US university, and brings Stanford’s scholarship pot to $750 million for its elite scholarship scheme. Nike’s founder previously made a $105 million donation to Stanford.

Stanford hopes the fund will lure talent to its campus in the heart of Silicon Valley, as competition between top schools intensifies. There have been a plethora of high-profile scholarship launches focused on developing business leaders with a thirst for social impact.

Oxford University’s business school this month received £3.7 million from hedge fund boss Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Foundation to develop social entrepreneurs, while INSEAD set up a similar scholarship for emerging market women in December.

And Chicago’s Booth School launched a scholarship for non-profit leaders funded with $4 million from the Neubauer Family Foundation.

“We wanted to create something enduring, that would be unlike anything else currently available to the world’s brightest minds, and that would make the biggest impact possible toward solving global challenges affecting the environment, health, education and human rights,” said Stanford president John Hennessy.

Sanford’s scholarship will fund 100 students a year through three-year graduate degrees, including in business, engineering and law.

The announcement comes as global business leaders consider more than just profit, and schools strive to offer them a matching education focused on people and planet. “We truly believe that business should make a difference in the lives of others — not just the bottom line,” said Erin Worsham, director of social entrepreneurship at Fuqua School of Business.

Ignasi Carreras, director of the Institute for Social Innovation at ESADE Business School, said: “We have been working intensively over the last 10 years to help our students understand how companies and non-profit organizations can have a positive impact on society.”

B-schools’ funds mirror the enthusiasm shown by their university bases, many of which are backed by billionaire bussinessmen-turned-philanthropists. Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates gave $210 million to the UK’s Cambridge University, and Blackstone’s boss Stephen Schwarzman put $100 million behind a program at China’s Tsinghua University.

A record $40.3 billion was raised by US universities in 2015, according to the Council for Aid to Education.

Stanford will accept applicants to its program in 2017. The first Knight-Hennessy Scholars will be admitted in 2018.

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